MANCHESTER, N.H.--After a humbling few days in Iowa, Mitt Romney on Sunday returned to his comfort zone in New Hampshire, where he has a home--and a lead.
Coming off of a Saturday night debate in which he was uncharacteristically criticized and with recent polls showing him trailing Newt Gingrich by as much as 13 percentage points in Iowa, Romney stopped at eateries, threw a town-hall meeting, and held a press availability in New Hampshire. He also reminded residents that he's one of them.
"I am not a creature of Washington. I haven't been in Washington as a politician, I won't stay in Washington when my term is over--or terms as the case may be," he said. "I will go home. I love Lake Winnipesaukee a lot better than I like Washington, I gotta tell you!"
A town-hall crowd of about 150 whistled and applauded as Romney mentioned the tucked-away area where he owns a summer home.
Upon jetting out of Des Moines this morning, Romney made a few retail stops in Milford, N.H., quietly meeting with voters without telling the press. He went to a diner, pizzeria, and town square--where he spoke about jobs with people lined up to meet Santa. (He joked: "As a good politician, I saw an opportunity and went up to the front of the line and went down the line.")
Romney then met with voters at a Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter in Hudson Township, where he answered questions mainly on the economy and foreign policy.
"We have in Israel a nation in greater risk than I've seen any time in my adult lifetime," he said, stressing the importance of standing strong with the nation. Romney made no mention of Newt Gingrich, or his comment that Palestinians are an "invented" people, which Romney took issue with in Saturday night's debate, saying such statements put Israel in danger.
Gingrich, in fact, did not come up at all at the town hall, nor did the awkwardly received $10,000 bet that Romney tried to place with Rick Perry at Saturday night's debate after Perry suggested Romney backtracked on a position in his book.
After his event on Sunday, Romney told the media that "after the debate was over, Ann came up and gave me a kiss and said I was great and she said 'There are a lot of things you do well; betting isn't one of them."
Romney also downplayed the recent poll numbers. "You know, I don't know why polls go up and down. Over the past year, whether it was Donald Trump or Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry or myself, various ones of us have led in the polls at one point or another."
But, as Granite State voters listened in the wings behind him, he also definitively said "I'm going to get the nomination. I can't tell you exactly which order I'll be able to pick up states in, but I'm convinced I'll be successful in this effort if I'm able to stay true to the things I believe and the message I deliver, and provide it in a very compelling way."
The crowd behind him cheered.Special Section: Campaign 2012